Penonomé, home to 88,000 people, is the capital of the Central Panamanian Coclé Province. Most people in the area rely on farming and fishing for their livelihoods, with sugar cane, coffee and corn being the main crops.
Over the last few years the country has seen great economic growth and government initiatives have helped to lift thousands out of poverty. However, over 50% of the population continue to live in poverty, straining to meet even their most basic needs.
Children at work
When parents struggle it is often the children who suffer the most. This is most obvious when they are forced to take up work to help support their families. Though the legal working age is 14 many children less than half this age can be found helping their parents on the farm.
Though it has declined in recent years, many children travel alone to find work away from the farm, such as becoming domestic employees in the homes of wealthier families. Not only does child labour interfere with children's educational development, but it can also damage their psychological and physical growth.
What also adds to the challenges that children in Penonomé face, is the young age of many of the mothers. Around 20% of children are born to teenage mothers every year and these women struggle to obtain steady work and provide for their families. In the worst cases this can lead to total abandonment of their children.
Just as importantly, these young women are unable to get a full education and have little opportunity to better their position in the future. Proper sexual health education is essential to combating this trend, since only 54% of women are thought to use modern forms of contraception at the moment.
What SOS Children is doing in Penonomé
We have been working in Penonomé since 1991 and we focus on ensuring that, even if children lose parental care at a young age, this does not negatively affect their life chances.
Our SOS Children's Village in Penonomé is home to up to over 100 children, living with 14 SOS families. Each family provides a safe and loving home with the care of a fully trained SOS mother. The children have all the benefits of family life and get the perfect start for what will hopefully be a bright future.
Even when children from SOS families feel they are ready to move out of the Children's Village, our care doesn't stop. The SOS youth programme offers them accommodation and advice, whilst they undertake further education or training and take their next independent steps in life.
Our Children's Village in Penonomé is home to babies and teenagers, each supported by a caring SOS family. Will you sponsor one of these children today?